I was in a troubled state of being recently.
It started in scattered moments. But soon every thought bouncing through my head - whether pragmatic, profound, nonsensical, or dark - had a common denominator. Some thing was the unifying theme, but it was elusive. I couldn’t put my finger on it.
Then I listened to this past Sunday’s sermon, which was on "hope." I realized that was the thing.
And that I didn’t have any of it.
I have gone through several periods in my life where I descend into hopelessness. It’s like when King Midas touches something and it turns to gold, except for me it turns into a shell of meaningless matter. Oh you’re a guitar? Not anymore. Upon my touch you shall morph into a hollow box that does nothing but kill time and dent fingertips.
The problem is I don’t know what triggers it. Maybe it started with frustration and evolved into discouragement, which then evolved into the state of hopelessness. I'm not sure. Some simply call it depression, but I have little reason to feel depressed right now. Currently,
1) My gorgeous wife is incubating a miniature version of ourselves that has the heartbeat of a stallion (a miniature stallion, but a stallion nonetheless).
2) My cholesterol levels, I’m told, are superb. Also my immune system is a fortress.
3) It’s Christmas time. There are twinkly lights and a thousand versions of O Holy Night and I could put miscellaneous baked goods to my lips at any waking moment. Do I want a brownie or a cookie? Give me both and I shall mash them together into a supertreat that is pleasing to both my tongue and belly whilst Caitlin and I invent baby names and O Holy Night echoes through my ear chambers.
But even with the presence of these good things, hopelessness intruded. I tried to navigate my way through the predicament. I tried ignoring the situations in life that were causing uncertainty and frustration. I tried rationalizing my feelings by explaining to myself that this was good for my soul. I tried busying myself to drown it out.
But it kept getting worse.
I even realized my efforts to cure it were meaningless, and I was convinced of my utter powerlessness to change the external.
But then there I sat, with blank staring eyes, listening to the sermon on hope in Christ’s second coming based out of Titus 2:11-14. And I had an epiphany - I had been right the entire time.
Everything in the world is hopeless.
Life is meaningless.
Babies and marriage and glucose highs are utterly pointless.
Unless Christ is coming back.
If he is, then there is hope. If he is, then there is a point to all of this. In my hopelessness, it was like I was visiting a Nativity scene and was staring into an empty manger. But in reality it’s not the manger that’s empty.
It’s the tomb.
The baby in the manger is a reminder every Christmas that Jesus came once - he will come again. Remembering this changes the way we see everything - triumph and futility, pleasure and pain, life and death. This had escaped me, and my world was subject to anarchy in its absence.
I know that Christians are often accused of throwing cliches at deep problems, and I don’t want to wrap this post up with a trite lesson. This was a genuine epiphany for me. I believe to the core of my being that remembering the return of Christ is not a veiled attempt to mask pain with words. It is a promise that is vital to our existence as Christians.
The beauty in remembering this is that no circumstance has to change for hope to exist. I don’t have to run off to distant lands to find meaning and purpose in my life. I don’t have to justify my despondency. I simply have to believe and remember the promise of the second advent.
So do you.